The Apple Giver
by Ron Van Sweringen
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Lena was becoming more uncomfortable as the hours passed, until finally she made a decision. She had to find Johnny Maytime and tell him to stay away from her cabin for his own good. She dressed Matthew warmly and told him they were going on an adventure.
The afternoon was reasonably warm, and Polk’s old pickup started easily. Lena drove it rarely: gas cost money, and she had little of that; about twenty dollars hidden away for hard times.
Lena knew her side of the mountain well, but the other side of it was strange to her. She decided to stop at Mrs. Clark’s place and ask for directions to Johnny Maytime’s cabin. After eighty years, the old woman knew everything there was to know about the mountain, good or bad.
An hour later, Lena pulled off of the main road onto a narrow opening in the dense forest that could hardly be described as more than an overgrown path. Tire ruts could barely be seen through the weeds, and Lena decided to leave the truck and go on foot. She hoped that she had understood Mrs. Clark’s directions correctly; the afternoon was growing late, and she definitely didn’t want to be caught out here after dark.
Matthew was in high spirits on his adventure and ran ahead of Lena, laughing. For a moment she forgot their situation, overcome by the infectious joy of her son. A slender thread of smoke rising above the trees and the smell of a wood fire said they were near a cabin. It appeared a moment later, weather-worn and nestled among the pines. Except for its smoking chimney, the cabin might have been overlooked.
Lena took Matthew’s hand and held him back as they drew near the structure. “Hello,” Lena called, waiting for a response.
The cabin door opened a moment later and an elderly woman stepped onto the porch, wiping her hands on a worn apron.
“I’m sorry to trouble you,” Lena continued. “I’m looking for Johnny Maytime.”
Matthew wiggled free from his mother’s grasp and quickly climbed onto the porch. The woman looked at him for a moment and then smiled, offering her hand to him. “You picked the right place,” she answered. “Come in out of the cold.”
The cabin was small and warm, a fire glowing in the hearth. “Sit down and rest yourself. I’m Martha Maytime, Johnny’s mother,” she said. “We don’t get much company. What brings you looking for my son?”
Lena felt awkward; she didn’t know how to start the conversation. Mrs. Maytime made it easier, “You’re the widow of Polk Wallace. I saw you at his funeral. My son thought highly of your husband and took me to see him off.”
Suddenly the words poured out of Lena as if a dam had broken. “Out of kindness, your son has been leaving food at my cabin, but it must stop. It’s dangerous for him.”
“Since when is doing a good deed for someone dangerous?” Mrs. Maytime asked.
“Since Silas Wilson found out about it,” Lena sighed. “He has an idea about him and me. I don’t know how he came by it, but Johnny should stay away from me for his own sake.”
“I reckon my son will make up his own mind about that. He’s quiet, and sometimes folks mistake that part of him for weakness, but it ain’t.”
The cabin door opened at that moment and Johnny Maytime appeared, taking in the scene with a confused look on his face.
“What’s the matter?” he said, looking at Lena, “I saw Polk’s pickup truck. Has something happened?”
Lena stood up, meeting his gaze straight on. She had only seen him for that moment outside the cabin and with Polk a few times from a distance. He seemed larger and more firmly built now, and his face was more mature and handsome than she had expected. Still and all the Indian in him and his pride in it were plain to see. One white feather dangled at the side of his face, fastened to shining black hair.
* * *
Silas Wilson opened the lower drawer of his desk and slid his hand into the darkness. The touch of metal met his fingers, and he slowly withdrew a .45 pistol. The weapon in his hand was heavy, as if to say, Whoever holds this means business. Silas pulled his lips down and nodded; he meant business.
The trip up Ragtop Mountain was slowed by the harsh glare of a setting sun. The temperature was dropping and frost was showing on the truck’s windows; in an hour it would be dark. Silas didn’t have much time.
When he reached the bend in the gravel road that led to Johnny Maytime’s cabin, he was about to slow down when he caught sight of a pickup truck parked at the turn off. Silas drove beyond the truck, until he was out of sight, then he walked back through the woods until he could see the pickup.
His fingers were wrapped around the cold pistol in his jacket pocket, and he squinted his eyes in the twilight. He caught sight of figures approaching the truck a few minutes later. A man, two women and a child. The man was Johnny Maytime and one of the women was Lena Wallace, with her son.
Silas took the gun out of his pocket without hesitation. His fingers trembled with the cold. “Don’t be stupid and kill him,” he repeated to himself. “Just scare the hell out of the bastard.”
Silas stayed hidden until Lena and Matthew drove away in the old pickup. He watched them drive out of sight before stepping out of his hiding place.
“Johnny Maytime,” he shouted, “I want words with you!”
Johnny Maytime and his mother turned with surprise to face him. Martha Maytime stepped in front of her son and shouted, “Git off my land! You’re not welcome here!”
Silas leveled the revolver at her and attempted to walk forward. His first step was cut short when his boot tangled in a root, instantly throwing him off balance. The hand holding the revolver flew up under his chin, where the gun discharged; a bullet exploded through the top of his skull.
The sound of the lone gunshot echoed over the mountain in the winter twilight. Lena heard it and assumed that a hunter had hit his mark. She hoped for the sake of the animal that it was a clean shot.
Copyright © 2014 by Ron Van Sweringen